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Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class

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A groundbreaking work that identifies the real culprit behind one of the great economic crimes of our time— the growing inequality of incomes between the vast majority of Americans and the richest of the rich. We all know that the very rich have gotten a lot richer these past few decades while most Americans haven’t. In fact, the exorbitantly paid have continued to thrive A groundbreaking work that identifies the real culprit behind one of the great economic crimes of our time— the growing inequality of incomes between the vast majority of Americans and the richest of the rich. We all know that the very rich have gotten a lot richer these past few decades while most Americans haven’t. In fact, the exorbitantly paid have continued to thrive during the current economic crisis, even as the rest of Americans have continued to fall behind. Why do the “haveit- alls” have so much more? And how have they managed to restructure the economy to reap the lion’s share of the gains and shift the costs of their new economic playground downward, tearing new holes in the safety net and saddling all of us with increased debt and risk? Lots of so-called experts claim to have solved this great mystery, but no one has really gotten to the bottom of it—until now. In their lively and provocative Winner-Take-All Politics, renowned political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson demonstrate convincingly that the usual suspects—foreign trade and financial globalization, technological changes in the workplace, increased education at the top—are largely innocent of the charges against them. Instead, they indict an unlikely suspect and take us on an entertaining tour of the mountain of evidence against the culprit. The guilty party is American politics. Runaway inequality and the present economic crisis reflect what government has done to aid the rich and what it has not done to safeguard the interests of the middle class. The winner-take-all economy is primarily a result of winner-take-all politics. In an innovative historical departure, Hacker and Pierson trace the rise of the winner-take-all economy back to the late 1970s when, under a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, a major transformation of American politics occurred. With big business and conservative ideologues organizing themselves to undo the regulations and progressive tax policies that had helped ensure a fair distribution of economic rewards, deregulation got under way, taxes were cut for the wealthiest, and business decisively defeated labor in Washington. And this transformation continued under Reagan and the Bushes as well as under Clinton, with both parties catering to the interests of those at the very top. Hacker and Pierson’s gripping narration of the epic battles waged during President Obama’s first two years in office reveals an unpleasant but catalyzing truth: winner-take-all politics, while under challenge, is still very much with us. Winner-Take-All Politics—part revelatory history, part political analysis, part intellectual journey— shows how a political system that traditionally has been responsive to the interests of the middle class has been hijacked by the superrich. In doing so, it not only changes how we think about American politics, but also points the way to rebuilding a democracy that serves the interests of the many rather than just those of the wealthy few.


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A groundbreaking work that identifies the real culprit behind one of the great economic crimes of our time— the growing inequality of incomes between the vast majority of Americans and the richest of the rich. We all know that the very rich have gotten a lot richer these past few decades while most Americans haven’t. In fact, the exorbitantly paid have continued to thrive A groundbreaking work that identifies the real culprit behind one of the great economic crimes of our time— the growing inequality of incomes between the vast majority of Americans and the richest of the rich. We all know that the very rich have gotten a lot richer these past few decades while most Americans haven’t. In fact, the exorbitantly paid have continued to thrive during the current economic crisis, even as the rest of Americans have continued to fall behind. Why do the “haveit- alls” have so much more? And how have they managed to restructure the economy to reap the lion’s share of the gains and shift the costs of their new economic playground downward, tearing new holes in the safety net and saddling all of us with increased debt and risk? Lots of so-called experts claim to have solved this great mystery, but no one has really gotten to the bottom of it—until now. In their lively and provocative Winner-Take-All Politics, renowned political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson demonstrate convincingly that the usual suspects—foreign trade and financial globalization, technological changes in the workplace, increased education at the top—are largely innocent of the charges against them. Instead, they indict an unlikely suspect and take us on an entertaining tour of the mountain of evidence against the culprit. The guilty party is American politics. Runaway inequality and the present economic crisis reflect what government has done to aid the rich and what it has not done to safeguard the interests of the middle class. The winner-take-all economy is primarily a result of winner-take-all politics. In an innovative historical departure, Hacker and Pierson trace the rise of the winner-take-all economy back to the late 1970s when, under a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, a major transformation of American politics occurred. With big business and conservative ideologues organizing themselves to undo the regulations and progressive tax policies that had helped ensure a fair distribution of economic rewards, deregulation got under way, taxes were cut for the wealthiest, and business decisively defeated labor in Washington. And this transformation continued under Reagan and the Bushes as well as under Clinton, with both parties catering to the interests of those at the very top. Hacker and Pierson’s gripping narration of the epic battles waged during President Obama’s first two years in office reveals an unpleasant but catalyzing truth: winner-take-all politics, while under challenge, is still very much with us. Winner-Take-All Politics—part revelatory history, part political analysis, part intellectual journey— shows how a political system that traditionally has been responsive to the interests of the middle class has been hijacked by the superrich. In doing so, it not only changes how we think about American politics, but also points the way to rebuilding a democracy that serves the interests of the many rather than just those of the wealthy few.

30 review for Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class

  1. 4 out of 5

    Christoph

    I had read the academic paper Hacker and Pierson released containing the thesis of this book in the journal Politics and Society in 2010. The article makes the case for the political impact on income inequality through hard data analysis of the separate quintiles comprising the income distribution. For the first time, clearly laid out numbers were crunched sadly depicting the deep-seated unfairness in American society. Less of a narrative and basically a frumpy old research article, this paper c I had read the academic paper Hacker and Pierson released containing the thesis of this book in the journal Politics and Society in 2010. The article makes the case for the political impact on income inequality through hard data analysis of the separate quintiles comprising the income distribution. For the first time, clearly laid out numbers were crunched sadly depicting the deep-seated unfairness in American society. Less of a narrative and basically a frumpy old research article, this paper contained what would become the mantra of the next two years regarding income inequality. I knew at the time I should read the book, but I felt I had gotten the whole story in the most evidence-based manner so put this way down the list. I was severely mistaken. The book Winner-Take-All Politics provides probably the most innovative, unabashed, scathing analyses of American society and the complete failure of politics through a comprehensive narrative that covers every concept imaginable. Hacker and Pierson clearly point out how the one percent have used politics, policy, and culture to institutionalize the economy of greed to concentrate wealth into the hands of a few. By challenging the conventional wisdom on just about every aspect of American culture, a compelling indictment is put against the American political system. From lobbying, to regulatory capture, to the culture wars, to policy drift, Hacker and Pierson in painstaking detail diagram the means of economic takeover of this country by an elite few while leaving citizens with an ever-decreasing share of scraps to fight over. The book time and again shows how a small group of right-wing ideologues use the levers of power to undermine the liberal majority of the United States. I cannot recommend this book enough to understand the most compelling and thorough rebuke of the modern political system.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    It's something I've been aware of for some time, both from personal experience and from picking up the data as a journalist covering this and that, but I don't think I've ever fully understood the reason why the middle-class in the U.S. has, as a part of our economy and political life, steadily fallen behind. But here comes "Winner-Take-All Politics" by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, both political science professors, to bring it clear and painfully home for me. The reason is Washington, D.C., whe It's something I've been aware of for some time, both from personal experience and from picking up the data as a journalist covering this and that, but I don't think I've ever fully understood the reason why the middle-class in the U.S. has, as a part of our economy and political life, steadily fallen behind. But here comes "Winner-Take-All Politics" by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, both political science professors, to bring it clear and painfully home for me. The reason is Washington, D.C., where politicians - largely of the right-wing Republican kind - have cut taxes for the super-rich and the rich, thus redistributing wealth upward to people who don't need it. While this might seem obvious, I would argue otherwise: If it were obvious, we'd be doing something about it, right? We'd be super-pissed and organizing a revolution of sorts to change things ... wouldn't we? Well, this is where Hacker and Pierson's book gets even more interesting: It's not obvious, partly because the giveaways to the rich have been masked as tax cuts for all, partly because the media have neglected to inspect where the battles are actually fought over the federal government's priorities and partly because the interest groups that would represent the middle-class's economic interests have been sapped of their strength. Chief of among these interest groups are labor unions, which, as the authors demonstrate, have dropped in membership and power since the 1970s. And it’s the late 1970s and the rise of the Carter presidency – not the period of Nixon’s ascendency earlier that decade – that began the mushrooming of corporate and business influence over national politics. That’s right. Nixon – the corrupt law-and-order candidate who enlarged the war in Vietnam – was the embodiment of that now-extinct creature of American politics: the moderate Republican. He presided over an administration that created the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a new office of consumer affairs, among other moves that would seem to be the exclusive territory of progressives and Democrats. Sure, Carter came into office facing plenty of what Hacker and Pierson define as “drift,” which refers to what happens when the policy initiatives that need to be implemented to deal with national, and often middle-class, problems are allowed to fester because of neglect – purposeful or otherwise. When Carter tried to do something about some of those problems he and his backers ran smack into armies of business lobbyists who’d decided they’d had enough of progressive legislation and that the only way to prevent more from being passed was to go on permanent offense. That they did. And as the ‘80s and the ‘90s and the ‘00s arrived, the aggressiveness of corporate interests - backed by an increasingly right-wing GOP whose only two policy initiatives seemed to be deregulation and cutting taxes on the rich - grew. Soon, the GOP was outspending – and out-organizing – the Democrats by large margins as money from Big Business flowed to a party that was happily ridding itself of its moderates. (Although the Sarah Palins of the world hold up Ronald Reagan as a paragon of conservative values, Hacker and Pierson point out that Reagan, although considerably right-wing, also compromised with Democrats and presided over a significant tax increase to deal with the nation’s growing debt. Funny how some people like to remember only the parts of history that jibe with their closed-loop beliefs about the world.) In response to the growing power of business interests and their political tools, Democrats increasingly began wooing Big Business, both by drinking the kool-aid that said cutting taxes on the rich and deregulating the market for corporations was always a good thing and by recognizing that if they didn’t get some Big Business cash, they might increasingly be at the receiving end of mounting electoral losses. (In this way, Hacker and Pierson show how our modern two-party system has largely become one system mostly owned and operated by corporations). Meanwhile, two primary schools of conventional thinking came to dominate the argument over why the middle-class was falling behind, seeing its wages stagnate. Well, it’s education of course; if more middle-class people obtain college degrees they’ll make more money. Then there’s technology: What can you do when the global economy makes the world flat and requires high-tech skills to compete effectively? The middle-class is bound to fall behind if they don’t get with the program and learn the latest Windows operating system. Hacker and Pierson demolish all of those points by laying out a data-backed case that, while technology and education have played small roles in the deterioration of the middle-class, the true culprit is Washington and its decision, time and again, to cut taxes on the rich and spread the costs to the middle-class. They compare other similar advanced capitalist nations to America, showing that the rich and the super-rich (the top one-tenth of 1 percent of earners in the U.S.) in America have made huge gains in income and wealth, while the wealthiest in countries such as Canada and several others have seen their incomes rise in modest proportion to other slices of the income ladder. Why? Because those countries have largely maintained progressive tax systems even as the U.S. has encouraged, through rabid tax-cutting, what the authors call the rise of “Richistan” and the simultaneous destruction of “Broadland,” that landscape of rising middle-class incomes that marked post-World War II life in America. In what amount to controlled experiments, the authors show that these other advanced capitalist nations experienced the same competitive pressures emanating from changes in education and technology. Yet, they did not experience the widening disparities in wealth that the U.S. did. Hacker and Pierson demonstrate other reasons why Richistan is winning. Having shown their willingness to run into the arms of Big Business, many Democrats have left the middle-class’ traditional bulwark against the excesses of corporate America – the labor union – in tatters. The authors show the percentage decreases in labor unions over a certain period of time, driven partly by Republican administrations – backed by willing Democrats – that have made it more difficult to unionize. Meanwhile, as they’ve turned away from blue-collar workers and labor unions, Democrats, in courting their own base of affluent backers – those who enjoy the rewards of Richistan but who still want to stop, say, polluters from having their way – have put more of their special interest stakes in environmental and pro-choice causes. While Hacker and Pierson see some hope in the 2006 and 2008 elections that saw Democrats come to dominate Congress and the White House, they also show what happens when the modern rules of Congress (filibuster, etc.) combine with widespread lack of knowledge of the political process on the part of the American public to make it extremely difficult to pass any kind of progressive legislation (i.e., health care reform). As the authors argue, in modern American politics today it’s easier to play defense and gum things up than it is to play offense and pass much-needed reforms that have been allowed to drift. Even the legislation that Obama and Congress have managed to pass – remarkable in its own right considering the decades of drift – has come riddled with loopholes (i.e., financial reform) and giveaways (i.e., Big Pharma), prime examples of how Big Business’ massive amounts of campaign and advertising cash, and organizational prowess ensured any progressive legislation would arrive watered-down and susceptible to runarounds. Hacker and Pierson argue that the only way the middle-class will gain ground is to create the capacity for sustained engagement (i.e., keep the activists who helped Obama win in the game) with the political process and to see the value of organized combat at key levels of government (i.e., the National Labor Relations Board) rather than seeing political action as leaving one’s house every once and while to vote. “Winner-Take-All Politics” is an excellent book – far ahead of the game in understanding how our politics actually work and intellectually honest in its use of data and evidence to breathe life into its argument about what really happened to the middle-class. I strongly recommend it to anyone who's wondering what the hell happened to our economy and our politics.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Book

    Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer And Turned its Back on the Middle Class by Jacob S. Hacker & Paul Pierson "Winner-Take-All Politics" is the interesting and upsetting look at how the economic gap between the super rich and the rest of us came about over the past 30 years. This insightful book details the policies that molded the economy to favor the rich. This 288-page book is composed of the following ten chapters: 1. The Winner-Take Al Economy, 2. How the Winner-Ta Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer And Turned its Back on the Middle Class by Jacob S. Hacker & Paul Pierson "Winner-Take-All Politics" is the interesting and upsetting look at how the economic gap between the super rich and the rest of us came about over the past 30 years. This insightful book details the policies that molded the economy to favor the rich. This 288-page book is composed of the following ten chapters: 1. The Winner-Take Al Economy, 2. How the Winner-Take-All Economy Was Made, 3. A Brief History of Democratic Capitalism, 4. The Unseen Revolution of the 1970s, 5. The Politics of Organized Combat, 6. The Middle Goes Missing, 7. A Tale of Two Parties, 8. Building a Bridge to the Nineteenth Century, 9. Democrats Climb Aboard, and 10. Battle Royale. Positives: 1. A well-researched and well-written book. 2. An accessible book for the masses. 3. Even-handed book. The authors don't hesitate to place blame where blame is due (both parties get their fair share of the blame). 4. The reality of a lack of intergenerational mobility. 5. The reality of our broken health care system. Eye-opening stuff. 6. Explains why American income inequality is the highest in the advanced industrial world. 7. How the government impacts the distribution of "market income". 8. Unpaid taxes and how that impacts us all. 9. The concept of drift defined and how it impacts our economy. 10. Interesting post World War II history. 11. Unions and the middle class. 12. The infuriating compensation of CEOs...and the rise of the "agent society". And even more interesting how difficult it is to even attempt to regulate it any way shape or form. 13. The impact of powerful special interest groups at the expense of us all. 14. Politicians and blatant conflicts of interest. Upsetting to say the least. Many interesting examples. 15. What the Constitution truly embodies versus what we have actually become. Compelling arguments. 16. Great thought-provoking quotes, "The debate should not be over whether government is involved in the formation of markets. It always is. The debate should be over whether it is involved in a manner conducive to a good society". 17. Many political misconceptions debunked. "Nixon, not Johnson, oversaw the most rapid increase in domestic spending since the New Deal". Many great examples. 18. The impact of lobbyists and who they represent. 19. The 1981 Economic Recovery and Tax Act (ERTA) and its impact. 20. The impact of Christian conservatism. 21. Interesting take on the recent history (30 years) of both major political parties. 22. The deregulation movement. 23. Mind-blowing facts, "More than a third of the 2001 tax cuts went to the richest 1 percent of Americans..." 24. The beast that is the financial service industry. The power of their lobby. 25. The transformation of the Republican party over the last 30 years. 26. The behavior of specific politicians driven by their local politics illustrated. 27. Obstructionist politics as part of political strategy , how it works. Examples: tax policy, stimulus plan, climate change, and labor law reform, to name a few. 28. Interesting look at President Obama's first year in office. 29. The "rule of sixty" as a recipe for frozen coffee. 30. The mind-blowing figures of health-care lobbying. 31. Why effective governance is the key to economic security. 32. Great suggestions on what can be done to return our democracy to the middle class. 33. Links worked great! Negatives: 1. The authors are biased to the left but in my opinion did a good job of being fair. 2. Foreign trade is not as innocent as the authors portray. 3. The book can be depressing at times, one comes to the realization that our government has turned into a "corporatocracy" and has become unreachable to all except the super rich. In summary, this is a very good book that clearly makes it case, "that the rise of winner-take all inequality has disadvantaged the vast majority of Americans, and none more so than those on the lower and middle rungs of the economic ladder". If you care about fairness and the principles of our Founding Fathers this book will certainly upset you. It's enlightening, at times infuriating and ultimately rewarding. I highly recommend it! Further suggestions: "Perfectly Legal..." by David Cay Johnston, "War on the Middle Class..." by Lou Dobbs, "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class" by Thom Hartmann, "The Fifteen Biggest Lies About the Economy" by Joshua Holland, and "The Looting of America..." by Les Leopold.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Melena

    Winner-Take-All Politics explained clearly and convincingly the events, conditions, and motivations that have led the US to our current state of economic fragility and inequality. As a veracious reader of economic and political material I was impressed by the authors' ability to explain the many nagging questions I've had about when, why, and how the country's economic policy began to change. Additionally, the book provides a plethora of insight and statistics regarding how the current condition Winner-Take-All Politics explained clearly and convincingly the events, conditions, and motivations that have led the US to our current state of economic fragility and inequality. As a veracious reader of economic and political material I was impressed by the authors' ability to explain the many nagging questions I've had about when, why, and how the country's economic policy began to change. Additionally, the book provides a plethora of insight and statistics regarding how the current conditions, hostile to the vast majority of Americans, have been able to continue despite varying political climates. The one issue that kept me from giving this book a perfect rating was its portrayal of President Obama as an ardent liberal hamstrung by the broken political system described in the book. It is my belief that President Obama is a relatively conservative politician and intentionally misrepresented himself and his policy preferences throughout his campaign. There is ample evidence to support this view in the many policies the Obama administration has adopted that did not involve Congress (civil liberties abuses, administration secrecy, whistle-blower prosecutions, deficit commission, war-making, etc) as well as his political appointments. Portraying President Obama as the expected result of our dysfunctional Winner-Take-All political system would have been much more convincing than giving him a free pass. In short, read this book and you will be the most well-informed person in just about any political/economic conversation.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    This is among the best books on politics I've ever read, and I've read far too many. What these authors do is simply make better sense of the last 30 years in American domestic politics than anyone else has, and do it in a way that is stunningly readable, immensely erudite, and remarkably forceful. I cannot recommend it enough. I'm not one to gush in a review, but I simply cannot think of a major flaw in this book. The core finding they make is that the vast new inequality in American life is NO This is among the best books on politics I've ever read, and I've read far too many. What these authors do is simply make better sense of the last 30 years in American domestic politics than anyone else has, and do it in a way that is stunningly readable, immensely erudite, and remarkably forceful. I cannot recommend it enough. I'm not one to gush in a review, but I simply cannot think of a major flaw in this book. The core finding they make is that the vast new inequality in American life is NOT a product of change in the economy or technology; it is largely a product of public policy choices. They show that 90% of Americans experienced no overall wage growth from 1979 to 2007, and they show precisely how political choices explain that change. Then they show why those choices were made. It is a murder mystery that resolves who killed the American Dream, and why. So many books today are fluffed out to get to a certain page number, a few good ideas with a lot of filler. This book rewards on almost every page. I'm awed by how much data, and findings from scholarship in economics and political science they manage to make readable and relevant. Buy it for every thinking person you know with a moiety of interest in American politics, particularly for your Republican friends.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Arnold

    In the ugly and dishonest football game that is American politics, all eyes converge on the two teams endlessly facemasking and clotheslining each other; few ever look to the skyboxes for their owners. Over the past few decades the US has become an immensely unequal nation, and both economists and laypeople wonder if the growing wealth gap isn't slowing economic growth and hurting global competitiveness. It certainly seems like the American economy isn't the perpetual fountain of prosperity it u In the ugly and dishonest football game that is American politics, all eyes converge on the two teams endlessly facemasking and clotheslining each other; few ever look to the skyboxes for their owners. Over the past few decades the US has become an immensely unequal nation, and both economists and laypeople wonder if the growing wealth gap isn't slowing economic growth and hurting global competitiveness. It certainly seems like the American economy isn't the perpetual fountain of prosperity it used to be, and Hacker & Pierson trace the roots of current middle class stagnation to large, gradual trends that stem from the unique decade of the 1970s: capture of both parties by corporate interests, rollback/evisceration/irrelevance of laws and regulations for favored parties, the decline of labor unions, and near-total abandonment of the idea of the government as a guarantor of the public good. It's a depressingly fascinating story, told with lots of eye-opening statistics on the arrival of Latin American-style class immobility and polarization in a style that's engaging without losing sight of the facts. Conservatives might argue that this book has a liberal slant to it, but so far even the AEI/Heritage/Cato crew hasn't been able to explain away its findings, probably because the book spends so much time with such solid research analyzing step by step the slow but deep changes to American society over the years. The moral of the story, such as it is, is that when you couple organization and drive with knowledge of the levers of power, like the modern conservative movement has, even the public interest is no barrier. Additionally, you can't expect an economy to grow forever by concentrating rewards at the top and punishments at the bottom, although the spectacle of guilt-free TARP-funded Wall Street bonuses vs. the ongoing foreclosure nightmare shows that our elected officials have no qualms about continuing the status quo. Hacker and Pierson's appealingly transpartisan solution is more organization and public engagement by ordinary people, but I think that's easier said than done. Stranger things have happened in America, like the recent baffling burst of Tea Party fever, but I think that and a lot of other current events show that people would rather yell at each other than actually solve problems. A new wave of broad-based civic participation also unlikely because re-engaging people en mass in the disgusting business of politics would require exactly the kind of semi-permanent institutions that have been collapsing and being destroyed (see: ACORN) all over the country. Hopefully reversing these trends won't require another Depression or world war.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Bill Moyers raved about this book, and his interview with the authors was fascinating. The book was pretty good, in my view, but not great. While I agree with the thesis of the book (that the political henchmen of the wealthy have expropriated public policy and twisted it to serve the ends of their masters), too often I found myself scribbling "Can you back up this assertion?" into the margins. Too often their numbered references take us to somebody else's allegation or published opinion, making Bill Moyers raved about this book, and his interview with the authors was fascinating. The book was pretty good, in my view, but not great. While I agree with the thesis of the book (that the political henchmen of the wealthy have expropriated public policy and twisted it to serve the ends of their masters), too often I found myself scribbling "Can you back up this assertion?" into the margins. Too often their numbered references take us to somebody else's allegation or published opinion, making this too often a glorified "He said/she said" bit of academically-born journalism. I would contrast this with UMass grad student Thomas Herndon's recent wrecking-balling of Harvard economists Rogoff's and Reinhart's foundation of austerity policies. That was done with facts and math. "Winner Take All Politics" is instructive, but less solid.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mark Tatge

    One of the best books I have read in a long time. This is a very well-written, well-researched account explaining how our economic system has become so tilted toward the rich and big business. Hacker lays out how our political system (both Democrats and Republicans) have been corrupted by big business, special interests while ignoring the middle-class voter. He traces the problem back to the 1970s when Jimmy Carter was president. The book moves forward by decade, explaining how changes in politi One of the best books I have read in a long time. This is a very well-written, well-researched account explaining how our economic system has become so tilted toward the rich and big business. Hacker lays out how our political system (both Democrats and Republicans) have been corrupted by big business, special interests while ignoring the middle-class voter. He traces the problem back to the 1970s when Jimmy Carter was president. The book moves forward by decade, explaining how changes in politics, government and election politics - all influenced by special interests - also led to the most recent economic collapse in 2008.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This book is a must read for those involved in politics. Basically, it shows how policy (and not markets) have created inequality. It's a survey of different policies (tax, banking, etc). There is so much more: housing, schools, etc. But this book shows exactly why and how this happened--basically money by business pushing legislators (both dems and republicans) to favor business over people. This is the tragedy of American democracy. It's been an ongoing disaster. This book is a must read for those involved in politics. Basically, it shows how policy (and not markets) have created inequality. It's a survey of different policies (tax, banking, etc). There is so much more: housing, schools, etc. But this book shows exactly why and how this happened--basically money by business pushing legislators (both dems and republicans) to favor business over people. This is the tragedy of American democracy. It's been an ongoing disaster.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jarin Jove

    This is one of the most eye-opening books about modern political policy, political history of how the Super-rich took so much of the control from Washington DC, and why it is difficult to make meaningful change. Due to the fact it covers the history of the rise of the top 1% through political maneuvering from Presidents Reagan to Obama, it would be too much to unpack in just this simple blog post. If you truly care about the economic inequality that has shattered the middle and lower class of th This is one of the most eye-opening books about modern political policy, political history of how the Super-rich took so much of the control from Washington DC, and why it is difficult to make meaningful change. Due to the fact it covers the history of the rise of the top 1% through political maneuvering from Presidents Reagan to Obama, it would be too much to unpack in just this simple blog post. If you truly care about the economic inequality that has shattered the middle and lower class of the US, this book is an absolute must-read that will give you the full breadth of information and clarify much of the purposeful misinformation that the Mainstream news media posits as reasons for the economic inequality and the chronic inaction of Washington. In brief, I'll cover some of the broad range of topics that this book covers and fully clarifies. I can only go into a minutiae and highly recommend personally buying and reading every single chapter in chronological order so you understand the full scope of the contemporary events that are creating problems in the US. A brief warning though, this is mostly going to seem incredibly one-sided and although I don't doubt bias, much of this makes far too much sense and is consistent with much of the political issues that are making the Middle and lower class of the United States suffer. It's a hard pill to swallow and it completely destroys the failure of bipartisanship on both sides narrative. Most interestingly, Hacker and Pierson do not pull any punches on the ignorance of the majority of US citizens on policy issues, agenda setting, the inner workings of Washington, and the average US American knowledge of how many of which party voted on a highly publicized policy such as Obamacare. They take it even further, and elaborate on how each party use the ignorance of the broad public to purposefully create the sense of disillusionment, apathy, and despair that the majority of US Americans feel with Washington. Moreover, how it's used to stoke anger, backlash, and constant resentment so that tax cutting initiatives for the super-rich go unimpeded. One key aspect before you begin to read: Who are the Super-rich? Broadly speaking: The heads of Financial institutions such as CEOs in banking, investment banks, brokerage firms, corporate CEOs, Realtors, and private equity firms. Essentially, Wall Street. They typically hide how much in millions they're making from their tax returns via stock options and deferential payments to avoid showing up on their tax returns. For that matter, their expenditures for donations to both major political parties, the Republicans and Democrats, are four times as much as energy companies and other organizations. The financial industry donates the highest in campaign contributions to both parties of Congress and the White House. Without further ado, here are just a few topics covered in this book and the explanations below are only the tip of the iceberg. If you wish to fully understand the key issues, purchase and read the full book yourselves. You will gain a clear insight and possibly pick-up on specifics that I possibly missed. To reiterate and emphasize, this political book is highly recommended: 1. The Mainstream News Media is purposefully misleading voters/viewers on what the problems are: The coined term "objective journalism" isn't really objective at all. It's really the Middle-ground fallacy, that is trying to find fault with both parties in equal measures, when the data shows that one side is disproportionately the problem. The Mainstream media continues this fallacious narrative in trying to make a "our side" and "their side" narrative with Pundits going on ego-stroking explanations on how a disaster would have been avoided if the current administration (whether Democrat or Republican) had just followed an idea that the pundit had after some financial or political disaster has happened. The mainstream news media also continues to play up or give credence to this distorted narrative of "big government" being in the way of economic entrepreneurs who wish to freely express their individual freedom for economic growth and job creation. This is a completely fictitious narrative, not the least of which is because corporations and the top 1 percent and, even more so, the top .001 percent have received constant tax cuts for the past thirty years. Even more importantly, the income bracket has not been updated to reflect the whooping increase in wages for the top .001 percent to raise their taxes for infrastructure and to update economic regulation on unchecked corporate power. As a result, wages for the bottom 80 percent have effectively stagnated while inflation has risen, and upper middle to lower class Americans are paying more and more while the wealthy are getting tax cuts. The idea that technological changes created this inequality, while true in some slight respects, is pure garbage in regards to the broad economy. Other countries do not have such a vast difference in wealth disparity apart from countries like Great Britain which modeled themselves after US economic policies and harbor a vicious classist culture of their own. But countries like France, Germany, and Japan do not hold this problem, because their labor unions didn't fall apart like US labor did during the Carter years and onward. More on that in #3. 2. The Mainstream Media is using Swing Voters as a scapegoat. Contrary to what mainstream outlets have the majority of US Americans believe to be true about swing voters, poll after poll shows that they're the least informed and most ignorant about political events and the differences between both major parties. This means that they can be utilized as convenient scapegoats with this narrative of racism or ruthlessness on the part of voters against racial minorities, White Americans, or those of the lower-income bracket. The idea that the average US American hates it's poor or hates a specific racial group gets personified. While there may be some truth to these claims, especially from outlandish types online and violent types that make headlines, the majority of US Americans don't actually secretly hate each other as this narrative implies. The most crucial and dangerous aspect of this issue is the attempt, engendered by the super-rich, to differentiate social equality with economic equality. To put bluntly, it's trying to make people believe the impossible. While yes, to a significant degree, economic inequality helps perpetuate racial divisions, the fact of the matter is that true social equality simply cannot exist when everyone is struggling to make a living. It creates apathy for social issues at best and places blame on racial minorities at worst. But, when the slice of the metaphorical pie is being taken more and more by the super-rich, there's simply no quality of life for the rest of the country because the public simply cannot function when there is no livable wages for anyone. The Mainstream media is completely apathetic to this basic fact and does everything to essentially brainwash US Americans into believing that the two can be separate. It's actually a strong show of the US's strength of character that discrimination continues to be highlighted, criticized, and robustly vilified by the majority of US Americans even as everybody is losing out to the Super-rich thanks to the two-party system. 3. Organized Labor's fall caused an information vacuum and Economic Drift. In brief, during the Carter years, there was a massive shift in business organizations linking together to fund special interest groups. By the 1980s, American Labor couldn't compete with the massive and concerted organized funding of lobbying groups representing business interests. Previously, they weren't making any concerted organization and felt threatened by American Labor's powerful lobbying firms. So, corporations took action and joined together to form powerful interest groups. They spent, for their time, unprecedented amounts of donations for fundraising for politicians. Within short order, politicians of both parties had to fundraise hefty amounts of money for televised advertisements and flyers to keep their seats in office. It was, during Carter's time, a massive shockwave that changed the contours of US politics. Over the years, there was an expansion of the number of lobbying firms, expenditures for business lobbying firms rose exponentially, and the lobbying firms eventually - and still do - functioned as "floating heads" without any organized grassroots efforts. Their expenditures were initially three times higher than what American Labor groups could do, this unprecedented and sharp rise in lobbying from business crippled American Labor within a short time. It only got worse by the 1980s, the expenditures rose from three times what American Labor could do for fundraising and donations to then becoming ten to thirteen times higher. American Labor broke down and the massive protests did little to stop the policy shift of economic drift. Economic Drift, in Hacker and Pierson's terms, are not derailing policies, but rather failing to upgrade existing regulatory policies to reflect the modern political landscape, economic shifts of wages, inflation, and providing regulations for emerging technologies. Instead, organized efforts of interest groups made loopholes for tax breaks, put stops to critical social protections for the American workforce, deregulated the financial industry, and worked to make sure that politicians didn't upgrade emerging financial trends to prevent economic catastrophes like the Great Recession of 2007-2008. Then, after the catastrophes, made sure to keep tax cuts for the super-wealthy while forcing the bottom 80 percent of the American workforce to foot the bill for their disregard and lack of regulatory oversight to protect consumers, stockholders, and the American workforce. This, in and of itself, is a very brief synopsis since Hacker and Pierson meticulously go through the history and details of exactly how all of this happened from the Carter years onward. They make a definitive point to note two key changes that truly harmed the American workforce and helped the deregulation that prompted the careless disregard by the super wealthy: First, due to the rapid decline of American Labor - which was partly shielded by the rise in labor unions in the public sector while the private sector unions all but evaporated - the American workforce became less tuned to Washington policy changes. Despite the funny hats and social customs, American labor was key in getting the majority of Americans to understand policies that effected their living standards. No more. Thanks to their fall and the rise of special interest groups working exclusively for corporate power. Second, during the supremacy of television, televised advertisements for politicians by lobbying firms helped to spread misinformation and focused on anger inducing techniques to inspire voting for policies which were harmful for the majority of US Americans. Sometimes they utilized outright lies to fool people into voting for a politician who supported policies harmful to the majority of the US public but helpful to corporate interests. Even worse, US Americans don't understand the true importance of elections because the mainstream media utilizes Us versus Them sports analogies. This is ultimately a corrosive and disingenuous view of the politics of capitol hill. What matters most is that the supermajority in power determines the policy agenda that the Congress will discuss for their years in power and what the majority of Americans should pay attention to is what policies that politicians actually pass and permit to become law. Often, they'll try to bluff by espousing rhetoric about how economic policies favorable to the majority of the US public couldn't pass because of the specific bill in place, but the politician will insist they support the public good while passing laws that diminish and harm the majority of the US public. The main focus needs to be on policies and laws actually being passed to learn what politicians in general - and your specific politician - really support on a consistent basis. 4. Partisan Politics is useful for the agenda of the Super-rich. It's interesting and gives a superficial understanding of what has happened, it is ultimately wrong. It does not unveil the true extent of the problem. The two-party system hatred is absolutely valuable for the agenda of the Super-rich, if anything it is highly crucial to keep their stronghold on Washington. That is because retired government officials or those who've moved to private sector jobs usually find work with the very powerful interest groups that lobby in Washington. People understand this, for the most part, but they don't understand how deep it goes. As time has gone on, since the beginning of this trend during President Carter's administration, significant increases millions of dollars of expenditures for lobbying groups have been pumped into lobbying to increase the proficiency of organized groups. These organized special interests work diligently to make into law the interests of the Super-rich. Typically, they work hard on tax cut loopholes for the Super-rich. Special interest groups representing the Super-rich have keyed in and have gone from developing strategies in which they hire former congressional staffers who have knowledge of or a close personal relationship with each congressman in Washington that are on specific congressional boards whose policy formations represent their business interests. Over the past thirty years, they have "modernized" this strategy. The problem was that, when there was political overhaul with a new supermajority party in power, the special interests typically cajoled the previously hired staffer of a political party, that was no longer the majority in Congress, to retire early. This was so that they could hire someone new from the other political party to take the helm and pursue their political interests utilizing the close personal ties to that specific party. No more; this strategy proved inefficient and obviously lead to distrust. Now, with the increasing expenditures of special interest groups to create a more efficient organized capacity for lobbying has created a massively successful framework. The special interest groups representing the Super-Rich have created two sets of organizations - one for Democrats and one for Republicans - so that regardless of whichever party is in power, the Super-rich will simply switch up the teams to use the most relevant political party that has ties to the elected congressman. Thus, the two-party system, and the public's idea that one political party is "their team" and that their corruption is "less worse" or "necessary" to fight the other team, helps the Super-rich continue to demand tax cuts while both political parties write up new tax laws that raise the taxes of the lower-income Americans, the Middle Class, and the Upper-Middle class while slashing taxes vigorously for the Super-rich. The Super-rich and both political parties have helped obfuscate the heinous degree in which they've ruthlessly continued this policy for the party thirty years. They have the Mainstream News media depict reduced taxes for the lower-income, middle, and upper-middle class and seem to increase taxes for the Super-rich; what isn't shown however is the chronological effect of such tax policies. While most of them will have reduced taxes for the bottom 80% for the first year or even the first two years, and have that part publicly shown on mainstream news outlets, within short time (for a tax policy), the 5 or 10 year tax policy will have aggressive cuts for the Super-rich and significant - often massive - increases in taxes for the lower-income, Middle, and Upper-Middle class of the US public. Obviously, it's proportional to what they have but there are significant increases all around, and the burden is solely on the bottom 80 percent. So what happens? Lower-income voters feel detached and like they don't matter so they don't vote. Middle-class voters become more permissive or apathetic to discriminatory rhetoric for racial minorities (those who lose jobs either blame identity politics or the racial minorities who they feel are stealing their jobs), and the Upper Middle-class has this biased idea that they're becoming poorer despite working harder than lower-income Americans. They may blame their lessened wealth on the idea of lazy poor people because they met one or two lazy people or know of a family they think of as lazy or with certain problems. Reactionary politics ensues, the "other party" Democrat or Republican, takes the supermajority hold in Congress and promise reform while then helping distribute more tax cuts for the Super-rich without any meaningful debate on what it's doing to the rest of US society. The Super-rich use their other team of their special interest group that have close ties to the other political party and then the Super-rich walk home with the grand prize of less taxes while the bottom 80% begin to blame their morals or technology or lack of religion or racial minorities or Millenials or whatever. This is also why Gerrymandering is important, and often given the narrative of us vs them between Republican and Democrat political parties to further obfuscate how much the bottom 80% is losing out to the Super-Rich. Gerrymandering assures that the two-party system stays in power and is vitally important for the Super-rich to keep their own power over the bottom 80 percent. 5. Evangelical Christians faithfully served the Super-rich and destroyed the Middle-Class. This is probably the most contentious aspect of their book, but they have the historic facts to back it up and the tale is unfortunately very one-sided under legitimate objective scrutiny. In brief, starting from the Carter years over rising anger over the possibility of churches being taxed, the anger simmered since Evangelicals were already reluctantly conceding to racial integration, the approximately 50 million US Americans (a number Evangelicals are happily to self-tout in their propaganda) staunchly and happily acted as the grassroots force of the Republican party. And with the majority of the US public inattentive and ill-informed, the Evangelicals highly organized and motivated grassroots organization proved effective in keeping Republicans under majority control from the Carter years to the Clinton years in the US Congress. The political advocacy for conservative social values only increased for the Presidency of George W. Bush and especially during the 2004 campaign against John Kerry. Republicans organization forces, and during the 1980s, their mail-in donation orders, helped to eclipse the organizational capacity of the Democrats. The dedication and tireless work of Evangelical Christians for the Republican party helped to cement their supermajority foothold. Evangelicals were quick to campaign door to door, to phonebank for candidates, and to help fellow Evangelicals to drive to the polling locations. And for all their hard work? They happily sat back as Republicans aggressively promoted Conservative social values such as the anti-LGBT scare of 2004 and the anti-abortion bills in local, State, and Federal government, sometimes even in the cases of infringing upon the rights of rape victims. If you do wish to learn more about what is going on, this book is highly recommended. Please read it, at least you won't be as confused about why nothing positive seems to be happening with the US Congress regarding economic inequality. If you still have hope for change, unlike me, then please read this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Susan Bazzett-Griffith

    Probably the most comprehensive and absolutely readable book about the widening income inequality and how it has happened over the last 40 years or so I've come across yet- Hacker is less Keynesian than Reich, and uses data and studies from a variety of economic points of views to back up his information, as well as rich and detailed historical data regarding tax policies, social issues, inflation, education, influx of lobbyists and PAC monies, and other human societal impacts for all the years Probably the most comprehensive and absolutely readable book about the widening income inequality and how it has happened over the last 40 years or so I've come across yet- Hacker is less Keynesian than Reich, and uses data and studies from a variety of economic points of views to back up his information, as well as rich and detailed historical data regarding tax policies, social issues, inflation, education, influx of lobbyists and PAC monies, and other human societal impacts for all the years since the Carter administration (additional historical info included when appropriate and germane as well). For as dull as my summary is, the book itself manages to make the topics interesting and understandable to even neophytes of economic theory, by explaining the nuts and bolts of the events that have lead us to this point in America, where the wealth distribution is so twisted that people can no longer expect to reach the middle class if they weren't born into it, nor stay there even if they were. Four stars, because as good as it was, it's still not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but for what it is, it's excellent. Highly recommended for political nerds and policy wonks.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sean Owen

    "Winner-Take-All Politics" is a great single-volume explanation of why the United States has gotten so screwed up over the past 40 years. Hacker and Pierson point to a vicious circle of economic inequality, declining labor unions, the role of money in politics and political polarization. They point out that policies that poll as hugely popular amongst lower-income groups are almost never put into place. While policies popular amongst higher-income groups are very likely to be point into place de "Winner-Take-All Politics" is a great single-volume explanation of why the United States has gotten so screwed up over the past 40 years. Hacker and Pierson point to a vicious circle of economic inequality, declining labor unions, the role of money in politics and political polarization. They point out that policies that poll as hugely popular amongst lower-income groups are almost never put into place. While policies popular amongst higher-income groups are very likely to be point into place despite the fact that they are popular only amongst a minority of the population. While they make many compelling points and largely hit the mark they miss a few of the cultural factors that are at work as well. The fracturing of the media environment that has everyone living in their own echo chamber deserves some of the blame. Additionally, they are way too soft on Obama. The disastrous choices made by his treasury department created the recovery for the rich at the expense of everyone else that directly ushered Trump into office.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Roberts

    WTF I hate "the outsized influence of capitalists on American democracy" now WTF I hate "the outsized influence of capitalists on American democracy" now

  14. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    For anyone looking to track the history of our political disfunction and to get a crash course on political science should keep this book in mind. Even though it's about 8 years old, it's look at political history is as relivent now as it was when the book was published, as is it's analysis of why popular programs often have difficulty getting passed in Washington. It's also depressing how true the text was: things after it's publication basically reinforced it's narrative. Things just got worse. For anyone looking to track the history of our political disfunction and to get a crash course on political science should keep this book in mind. Even though it's about 8 years old, it's look at political history is as relivent now as it was when the book was published, as is it's analysis of why popular programs often have difficulty getting passed in Washington. It's also depressing how true the text was: things after it's publication basically reinforced it's narrative. Things just got worse. Political capital continued to be squandered in the impossible goal of bi-partisanship. The GOP got even more conservative. And real reform is still nowhere in sight (and increasing seems impossible). However, all is not lost. My takeaway from the book gives a few ideas on how to fix the problem of our broken political system: 1. Organizations matter: without them, all real reforms will die 2. Our process matters: if our political system is easy to corrupt or obstruct by the powerful, then it will be obstructed (often against the common good of the vast majority). 3. Money matters: campaigns cost money. Politics is run by money. If it is unrestricted, the few will use their resources to lopside political power. This raises concerns on what to do next time the possibility of reform happens. The instinct is to push for the necessity reforms: but the reality is that our political landscape can and will make mincemeat of even the most popular of proposals. Rather, the assult must not first be on what needs to be done: it must be against the system of winner take all politics. Money must be restrained. Our legislative process must be drastically reformed. Our system and regulators must be given more freedom and capacity to preform their chartered objectives. Organizations must be organized to oppose vested special interests. The wonky, boring, and unglamorous world of government policy must be reformed. There are a few good ideas on how to do this. A heavy tax can be levied on large lobbying operations (say, a 100% excise tax on all yearly lobbying expenses over 6 million dollars a year). Public election financing should be created (such as the government by the people act). Driver's of campaign expenses should be limited (like limits on television and radio advertising). The Legislative process could be streamlined (the filibuster could be eliminated). The Administrative procedure act could be amendment to give regulators greater freedom to enforce their rules. There are even more great ideas I don't know about I'm sure ....... But all of this MUST be done if real reform is going to be possible. So far, the only objective met has been the rise of new and dedication organizations looking to create real reform (a direct result of the explosion of energy over the Sanders primary campaign in 2016). That's one issue down. Now, we need to tackle everything elese. Then we can get down to business at putting out Government to work at the necessity task of putting our country back on track.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Hacker & Pierson combine two major liberal concerns here-- inequality in America and corporate money in politics. In effect, they argue, the latter caused the former. A major influx of corporate contributions to campaign funds, lobbying, and organization-building began hitting Washington in the late '70s, and national politics has been the effectual servant of wealth ever since. I condense and amplify their case, but not by much. The important thing here: Hacker & Pierson are political scientists Hacker & Pierson combine two major liberal concerns here-- inequality in America and corporate money in politics. In effect, they argue, the latter caused the former. A major influx of corporate contributions to campaign funds, lobbying, and organization-building began hitting Washington in the late '70s, and national politics has been the effectual servant of wealth ever since. I condense and amplify their case, but not by much. The important thing here: Hacker & Pierson are political scientists. They look at a highly emotional subject by means of factual data, gathered by that discipline's methods. The result, despite the authors' clear efforts, is a little bloodless. Their workmanlike prose is much better than most academics', but this is still no page-turner. Barbara Ehrenreich or Thomas Frank, both of whom abandoned the academy for activist journalism, would tell the story better; but Hacker & Pierson certainly have better graphs. They don't sacrifice moral clarity for factual precision, either. Readers of major center-left wonky blogs (Krugman, Ezra Klein, 538) will find nothing to fear here, and will probably learn a great deal. I certainly did. Compared to standard narratives of post-LBJ American politics, this one tends to underplay ideological shifts and political personalities in favor of following the money-- a strategy I find persuasive. Most strikingly, nothing in this case suggests that anyone set out to increase inequality. Corporate managers certainly sought to increase their profits (or, if you prefer, ensure their businesses' survival and thriving) by all means available, including political influence. That's capitalism. If they hadn't, they would have been replaced by managers who would. In Hacker & Pierson's account, it is more surprising that business spent the years between FDR and Carter so reticent about political involvement. I would speculate it involves a generational shift among CEOs-- a point Hacker & Pierson might not be expected to take up, as it would bring ideology and personality back into the equation. The book returns on occasion to Steinbeck's Okie, forced off his land, asking whom he can shoot. The authors empathize with him: Their methods identify only abstractions. The culprit in inequality, they say, is not actually "corporate money", but "politics". To amend that to "power" is easy enough. And the point of power, as of history, is that you can't shoot it. This is social science working right up to its own limitations, where social theory of various forms must take over. But what the book lacks in theoretical bite, it more than makes up in facts.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nick Klagge

    The content and message of this book are worth reading and understanding: the sharp increases in economic inequality over the past several decades in the U.S. are driven in large part by political decisions, not simply by globalization and/or technological change; furthermore, this is not merely the doing of Republicans, but has been propagated by Democratic politicians as well. So far so good, although I already basically believed this before reading the book. I was somewhat disappointed in the The content and message of this book are worth reading and understanding: the sharp increases in economic inequality over the past several decades in the U.S. are driven in large part by political decisions, not simply by globalization and/or technological change; furthermore, this is not merely the doing of Republicans, but has been propagated by Democratic politicians as well. So far so good, although I already basically believed this before reading the book. I was somewhat disappointed in the approach of the book, however. (This is episode 4,329 of me being disappointed in a popular consumption book for not being an academic book.) I presume that, since Hacker and Pierson are successful academics, the content here is a distillation of a large amount of academic research by the authors and others. However, the text certainly doesn't highlight specific academic work, and in general (I don't have the book in front of me) doesn't even provide references for the interested reader. The majority of the text consists of an extended narrative description of political developments from about 1970-2010. This is interesting enough material, but it didn't feel like a particularly original take. (Perhaps it was more so at the time of writing?) I also felt that the authors gave way too cursory a treatment of the alternative explanations of globalization pressures and skill-biased technological change. They basically mention them and then provide fairly glib dismissals. As I mentioned above, I do think the authors have it right, but it didn't strike me as a fair hearing. The old adage says that you should describe your opponent's arguments with sufficient clarity that he or she would approve of the exposition, and H&P fall far short of that bar here. I would very much have preferred that much of the narrative history material be replaced by a detailed review of the strongest evidence for the alternative hypotheses and for the author's hypothesis, and a defense of the latter in that context. Probably that means I should just be looking for the authors' academic papers.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    This is a great book. The right would describe it at an effort of class warfare, but as the authors claim, there is no war going on here: one side has won overwhelmingly and continues to keep on winning - big and ugly. A smaller number of people have acquired more and more money and the masses are falling further and further behind. A few particularly interesting aspects regarding the narrative: 1) This increasing chasm between the small number or really wealthy people and the rest started in the This is a great book. The right would describe it at an effort of class warfare, but as the authors claim, there is no war going on here: one side has won overwhelmingly and continues to keep on winning - big and ugly. A smaller number of people have acquired more and more money and the masses are falling further and further behind. A few particularly interesting aspects regarding the narrative: 1) This increasing chasm between the small number or really wealthy people and the rest started in the 1970s - after Nixon/Ford and before Reagan. That is, during the Carter years, in which the Democratic Party controlled both houses of Congress. Here the authors point out that the Democratic Party was already changing - the south was moving rightward. 2) What the authors claim to be problems would not necessarily be problems if, at least, the US was outperforming other countries with less wide chasms between the uber-rich and the rest. But the authors claim that that is not happening. The separation is NOT benefiting America, and it sure isn't benefiting the masses. I don't know if what they're saying is true, or how many other ways there are to look at the same set of data. I'm also always concerned with arguments for government intervention in the distribution of riches. Also, although I'm glad unions have existed in this country, I'm not so inclined to follow the authors' lead in claiming their downfall was all bad. Lots of problems in many of those organizations. Finally, the book completely flops at the end. No believable path to fixing the problem - if it is a problem. Still, all of the book, up until the end, is top-notch, readable, and important.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sonia

    So I didn't finish this because the end of the semester happened and I got entirely burnt out, but I will say that what I read was interesting, smart and incisive. Pierson and Hacker are currently kind of rock stars in the poli-sci world, partly because they make very complicated issues - in this case America's unprecedented spike in income inequality - understandable for those of us who don't have extensive background in econ or policy. The argument they make here for how the U.S. government ef So I didn't finish this because the end of the semester happened and I got entirely burnt out, but I will say that what I read was interesting, smart and incisive. Pierson and Hacker are currently kind of rock stars in the poli-sci world, partly because they make very complicated issues - in this case America's unprecedented spike in income inequality - understandable for those of us who don't have extensive background in econ or policy. The argument they make here for how the U.S. government effectively tips the scales in the favor of the already favored rich (forget the 1%, it's more like the.1%) is convincing and devastating. My only complaint is I wish they'd talk a little more about the poor versus the conventional focus on the middle class. Yes, it's striking how the U.S. doesn't really have a middle class anymore if you look at the ridiculous skew of wealth in this country, but it's even more shocking how much of this country lives in poverty while those at the very top exploit tax loopholes and complain about the way the government is bleeding them dry.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    This book perfectly captures the main problem facing the United States today: the capture of the political system through by the very wealthy, and their use of the system to extract an ever-increasing portion of the economy for their personal use. Then it outlines how this problem came to exist, describing the successful, long-term organization of the business lobby in response to legislative defeats in the 1970s that has fully transformed how both parties do politics. The only way to fix this i This book perfectly captures the main problem facing the United States today: the capture of the political system through by the very wealthy, and their use of the system to extract an ever-increasing portion of the economy for their personal use. Then it outlines how this problem came to exist, describing the successful, long-term organization of the business lobby in response to legislative defeats in the 1970s that has fully transformed how both parties do politics. The only way to fix this is through large-scale, durable mobilization on behalf of the middle class. All of this is spot-on, compelling, and extremely relevant to the present moment. Winner Take All Politics is required reading for those concerned about the state of the US . It's frustrating that the book has been around for 7 years without its message sinking in.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ilya Gerner

    Has its faults (reliance on much-criticized Piketty and Saez income data, too quick discounting of technological change) but it's the most articulate explanation I've read about why the United States has transformed from "Broadland," where the fruits of economic expansion are broadly shared, to "Richistan" with unimaginable wealth for a few and uncertain prospects for many. Especially impressed with the concept of "policy drift:" instead of focusing exclusively on what policies were adopted, we h Has its faults (reliance on much-criticized Piketty and Saez income data, too quick discounting of technological change) but it's the most articulate explanation I've read about why the United States has transformed from "Broadland," where the fruits of economic expansion are broadly shared, to "Richistan" with unimaginable wealth for a few and uncertain prospects for many. Especially impressed with the concept of "policy drift:" instead of focusing exclusively on what policies were adopted, we have to consider how policy has not kept pace with changes in the economy. Good discussion of organizational politics: the decline of labor, the rise of the business lobby, and the ideological shifts within the GOP. Read it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I listened to these guys on Bill Moyers and was very impressed. Their thesis is that Congress no longer listens to the middle class partly because campaigns now cost so much that only the wealthy and corporations can make donations large enough to matter and also those are the ones who can afford to hire the lobbyists who convince Congress to pass bills to help them make even more money---and which led to the 2008 Recession. In fact, nearly all of the bills these people want get passed while tho I listened to these guys on Bill Moyers and was very impressed. Their thesis is that Congress no longer listens to the middle class partly because campaigns now cost so much that only the wealthy and corporations can make donations large enough to matter and also those are the ones who can afford to hire the lobbyists who convince Congress to pass bills to help them make even more money---and which led to the 2008 Recession. In fact, nearly all of the bills these people want get passed while those that would help the middle class only occasionally get passed while those that would help the poor basically never get passed, which is why the title continues "how Washington made the rich richer and turned its back on the middle class". Highly informative.

  22. 5 out of 5

    C. Scott

    A truly excellent examination of how American politics became skewed to favor the rich. It certainly appears that winner-take-all politics have midwifed the winner-take-all economy that we have today. Addressing income and wealth inequality will require addressing political inequality first. This book makes a really nice companion read with "Fixing Elections." Each compliments the other in understanding how we might go about changing our broken political edifice. A truly excellent examination of how American politics became skewed to favor the rich. It certainly appears that winner-take-all politics have midwifed the winner-take-all economy that we have today. Addressing income and wealth inequality will require addressing political inequality first. This book makes a really nice companion read with "Fixing Elections." Each compliments the other in understanding how we might go about changing our broken political edifice.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Leonardo

    Political forces played an important role too. In their study “Winner-Take-All Politics,” Hacker and Pierson document the way in which organised interest groups in the US have lobbied to secure changes in the regulatory framework, in accounting standards, and in tax rules. Inequality Pág.108 Political forces played an important role too. In their study “Winner-Take-All Politics,” Hacker and Pierson document the way in which organised interest groups in the US have lobbied to secure changes in the regulatory framework, in accounting standards, and in tax rules. Inequality Pág.108

  24. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    Hard to read this book in that now it will be an overlay on my thinking. I knew about the party of no but hadn't really understood about the party of delay and drift. I will dedicate myself to long term organization to push back the greedy business forces. Hard to read this book in that now it will be an overlay on my thinking. I knew about the party of no but hadn't really understood about the party of delay and drift. I will dedicate myself to long term organization to push back the greedy business forces.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Louise Leetch

    Publishers Weekly Review

  26. 4 out of 5

    David

    Finalist for the 2011 Hillman Prize for Book Journalism. The central concept of the book is that the political shift toward the rich / conservatives began in the 1970's (and later accelerated.) Before that, it says businesses generally lobbied / supported candidates as individual companies or industries. After the growth of progressive interest groups, businesses organized more on a broader, bigger and more powerful basis. Hacker says this was powerful enough by the time Pres. Carter took office Finalist for the 2011 Hillman Prize for Book Journalism. The central concept of the book is that the political shift toward the rich / conservatives began in the 1970's (and later accelerated.) Before that, it says businesses generally lobbied / supported candidates as individual companies or industries. After the growth of progressive interest groups, businesses organized more on a broader, bigger and more powerful basis. Hacker says this was powerful enough by the time Pres. Carter took office (with Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate) that the Democrats dropped / defeated legislation favoring unions, working people, etc. and enacted a number of things for business.* While there may be significant truth in that, it's not the sudden Dr. Jekyll / Mr Hyde change Hacker suggested. FDR didn't rush into progressive legislation in 1933. In 1971, Nixon proposed a limited but progressive health care reform. Committees in both a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate discussed health care reform, but neither sent any bill to the full chamber. There's truth that the amount of election campaigns and lobbying money has skyrocketed in the last 40 years. The book's discussion of this and the pressures faced by the Democrats is true. This raises a question not properly addressed: Was this an insurmountable obstacle for a large party such as the Democrats? That is to say, does wealth now have so much power in politics that it can't be corrected within the existing system? If not, it's crucial to see that after 40+ years, Democrats haven't overcome a surmountable obstacle, they don't appear to be on the verge of surmounting it, and they don't seem focused on making the necessary changes. So, is the system not repairable, or is it just that the Democrats won't do the repair work? While the book is informative, I felt it didn't look far enough below the surface. For instance, near the end, it says that the biased system which has allowed increasing biases in favor of the 1% by its nature of being biased won't be easy to change, but as hard as it might be, we have to work within the biased system to make it less biased. At most points in time, most people feel the right thing to do is work within the existing system. But that isn't always necessary or wise. I think it was OK to work outside the system in 1776. And when a system is designed to favor the 1% over the 99%, I believe the 99% have the right to establish majority rule by other means. * The book says of the Carter era - and remember this is BEFORE Reagan: "With the Republican veto threat gone, the opportunities for liberals to control the political agenda greatly expanded. Within his party, Carter was regarded as a moderate, but he had staked out liberal positions on a range of major economic issues, including health care, taxes, and labor relations. Equally significant, the new Democratic president could work with massive majorities in both the House and the Senate. [But] "1977 and 1978 marked the rapid demise of the liberal era and the emergence of something radically different. Tax reform: defeated. A new consumer protection agency: defeated. Election Day voter registration: scuttled before reaching the floor of the House. Health-care reform: defeated. A proposal to tie the minimum wage to the average manufacturing wage to prevent its future erosion: defeated. An overhaul of outdated labor relations laws: successfully filibustered in the Senate, despite the presence of sixty-one Democrats and a Republican minority containing some genuine supporters of organized labor... "...Congress passed a tax bill whose signature provision was a deep cut in the capital gains tax — a change that would largely benefit the wealthy. This followed hard on the heels of a decision to sharply raise payroll taxes, the most regressive federal levy. ... "At the same time, Congress and the president embarked on a major shift in economic policy, embracing the argument that excessive regulation had become a serious curb on growth."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chuck Kollars

    A thorough broad-brush descripition of U.S national politics, with full detail going back as far as Reagan, and some references to FDR and even further back. Its basic point is that Washington D.C. has been captured by the 0.01%. The situation really is as bad as the cynics say, in fact possibly even worse. The clearly written book manages to be fairly objective and upbeat while delivering a devastating message. It's organized somewhat as an "investigation", the way a PI would do it. The usual s A thorough broad-brush descripition of U.S national politics, with full detail going back as far as Reagan, and some references to FDR and even further back. Its basic point is that Washington D.C. has been captured by the 0.01%. The situation really is as bad as the cynics say, in fact possibly even worse. The clearly written book manages to be fairly objective and upbeat while delivering a devastating message. It's organized somewhat as an "investigation", the way a PI would do it. The usual suspects (globalization, etc.) are definitively shown to be at most minor players, with most of the economic effects actually coming directly out of government (non)regulation. There are many many references to money infuencing or distorting politics in various ways. Unfortunately -because the book's organizing principle is something different- this is never analyzed in the depth I think it deserves. While the book does a very good job of documenting "that" it happened, it's weaker on "why" it happened or "what to do" about it. And the reference to "how" it happened on the cover turns out to be more a blow-by-blow description of the exploitation of unenforced conventions and legal loopholes than any deeper analysis. There's zero comparison with any other country, and not even any historical comparison with the U.S. And everything is descriptive - there are almost no statistics or other data. And there's no analysis of such a basic question as why legal and societal loopholes that enabled electoral chicanery and ignored "the little guy" remained dormant until a little before Reagan, then sprang to life with a vengeance. The book stresses a concept it calls "drift", which is similar to the old saw about doing nothing at all still being a choice with consequences. Its point is that a dynamic capitalist economy changes everything so quickly that laws become ineffective within a short time, so doing nothing is in effect enabling a takeover by the 0.01%. It says the only way to take power back from the 0.01% is with an effective revolution, and such a thing has already occurred three times (the Progressive Era, the New Deal, and the Long 1960s). There's no explanation though of why such revolutions weren't needed and didn't occur in the first century of the U.S., nor of why such a requirement seems to apply only to the U.S. The book came out before the financial crash of 2008 was fully resolved, and offers no opinion on whether or not the government response to that crash effectively missed the next opportunity for a revolution. Nor does it offer any opinion on why Obama generally proffered policies that were friendly to Wall Street, yet was reviled by Wall Street anyway. I found the book's working definition of inequality unsatisfactory. In some places it says the rise in incomes of the top 1% is almost entirely due to CEO pay packages; in other places it says that the ultra-rich have in effect taken over our politics and inequality is much much worse than it used to be. It does document that the huge increases in CEO pay packages affect all English-speaking countries, but offers only very weak explanations of why this might be the case and why non-English-speaking countries are unaffected. The excuse -delivered several times- that it's very hard to find statistics about only the super-rich (the 0.01%) may be true, but doesn't lead to interesting reading. The book's only suggestion of what caused this mess is the reduced and symbolic senate filibuster that effectively prevents any legislation from passing unless it can garner at least 60 votes. But the book then backs away from its own suggestion, admitting that the filibuster can't be the only cause of the mess (without much attention to just what the other causes might be), and tacitly admitting the coincidence of similar times is not a proof of cause-and-effect in either direction. All references to "what to do" are deferred to later in the book, effectively to the last chapter. This is an effective way to keep readers going through some dry spots. Unfortunately when the reader finally gets there, the last chapter sounds more like "the glass is half full" than it does like a specific program of action. (To my mind, rose-colored glasses are _not a solution.) In passing (sometimes I think even unintentionally) the book offers very brief coverage of several startling ideas (not enough coverage of each to even build a prima facie case, only enough to suggest another investigation): One is that the press never was the primary guardian of "the little guy", is systemically ill-equipped to do so, and despite all its public search for more "objectivity" and "civic mindedness" will never be able to fill that role. While pursuing other objectives, it occasionally exposes a thread of corruption. But those shining moments will always remain disconnected fragments. The press has little real political weight, and cannot provide the long-term memory and organization that "the little guy" needs in order to be effectively represented in our government. Another is that the typical U.S. voter has from day one been woefully under-informed and reactionary. It's always been true that "direct democracy" in the U.S. would be an unmitigated disaster. Pleas for a more educated electorate or for returning to the "good old days" are just pissing into the wind. Another is that the whole U.S. system of government was set up for and did well with an economy where "land" was the most valuable resource and its ownership was widely distributed (an "agricultural" economy). But our Constitution is inherently ill-suited to governing industrial capitalism, and has been struggling -often not very successfully- for decades. Another is that only nationwide membership organizations with some other primary purpose (unions, fraternal organizations, etc.) have the institutional memory, centralized staff, and organizing power to make "the little guy" an effective part of national politics. Just giving every citizen "the vote" in reality does nothing. Another is that while the Republican party has supported the 0.01% from the get-go, the Democratic party also effectively came aboard during the Clinton years. Rhetoric -especially that from the Democratic party- suggests otherwise, but an examination of actions and votes exposes the more tawdry story. Another is that deceptive practices such as saying one thing publicly then doing something very different, or arranging "sunset" provisions so as to throw a monkey wrench into OMB cost estimates and make it appear a program has a vastly different cost than it actually does, are not just used by a few. Cheerfully "making stuff up" is not a technique restricted to a few newscasters; deceptive practices have become "politics as usual" and are used fairly frequently by a majority of national politicians. Another is that the most significant opportunity for corruption in the U.S. government is places where a single person can -without possibility of override- keep a bill from even being considered. These are most notably chairs of congressional committees. Some rule that allows an override (such as that a vote of some super-majority of the membership can bring up a bill despite the chairman) is a necessity for mitigating the distortions of politics by money.

  28. 4 out of 5

    M.a.

    This is a scholarly book written by two political science professors, one at Yale University, the other at the University of California at Berkeley. They quote 30 pages of footnotes substantiating their findings. The authors demonstrate how the growing income inequality between the 1% or the 0.01% and the rest of America was caused by deliberate policy decisions from Washington. The authors show how US politics is more influenced by what they call "organized combat" than by the results of what the This is a scholarly book written by two political science professors, one at Yale University, the other at the University of California at Berkeley. They quote 30 pages of footnotes substantiating their findings. The authors demonstrate how the growing income inequality between the 1% or the 0.01% and the rest of America was caused by deliberate policy decisions from Washington. The authors show how US politics is more influenced by what they call "organized combat" than by the results of what they call "electoral circuses". Business and corporate interests started organizing themselves in the late seventies to achieve their dreams of tax cuts, deregulation and cuts to social programs. They achieved this by intense lobbying of GOP members of congress and huge campaign contributions to GOP candidates and through the financing of "idea merchants" and "idea factories" (a.k.a. think tanks). Meanwhile, the Democratic Party, traditionally the party that had represented working and middle class America , lost its main source of financial support, namely the labor unions, which were in constant decline. (current membership in labor unions for the private sector is at 7% ). So the Democratic Party started wooing big business for financial support. But there is no free lunch- the result was that even with a Democratic President and a Democratic majority in Congress, (such as in the first two years of the Obama Presidency),social reforms were stalled by Democrats who became " Republicans for a day" and compromises had to be made.. Add to that what has become the de facto 60% majority vote in the Senate necessary to pass new laws (because of constant filibustering by minority GOP senators which elicit the 60 vote rule) and one gets a clear understanding of how even with a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate, the GOP could still call the shots. (When a wealthy minority decides on public policy against the wishes of an elected majority, either by active policy making or by blocking policy making, the political system is an oligarchy, not a democracy.) In short, the authors' thesis is that the wealth distribution is shaped by public policy regarding taxes, regulations and social programs and that for the past 40 years the business and corporate world was in the driver's seat, regardless of which members of Congress or which President won the elections. They basically wrote the laws in their own favor because they had the organizational power and the finances to do so (in plain English, they had the power to buy both the Republicans and the Democrats in Congress) thereby enriching their own class and impoverishing the rest. The authors call this America "Richistan" and hope that the middle class will be able to organize itself to turn the US back into "Broadland", not only by mobilizing voters during the election circuses, but even more importantly, by sustaining influence on Congress after the elections, like the labor unions of yore, who brought us Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. This book was published in 2010. Sadly, nine years later, even as we are on the cusp of a new election circus, I see no sign of the Democrats having pivoted anywhere near "organized combat" to represent middle class Americans. The root cause of the problem is our system of limitless electoral financing and lobbying that allows the bribery of elected officials by special interests, a system which was sanctioned by the Supreme Court in the 2010 Citizen United decision. Because this kind of money spending by corporations and businesses is "free speech"....

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    This book was written during the Obama administration, but I am reading it under Trump, who has done us all the favor of laying bare just what makes the Republican party tick these days. Which is to say, the book is a bit dated, but prescient, political science analysis of why the rich keep getting richer, with D.C.'s help. The main takeaways are this: -- Corporate interests and the wealthy are very, very, very, very well organized when it comes to advocating for their bottom line in DC. -- The ris This book was written during the Obama administration, but I am reading it under Trump, who has done us all the favor of laying bare just what makes the Republican party tick these days. Which is to say, the book is a bit dated, but prescient, political science analysis of why the rich keep getting richer, with D.C.'s help. The main takeaways are this: -- Corporate interests and the wealthy are very, very, very, very well organized when it comes to advocating for their bottom line in DC. -- The rise of hugely expensive modern elections based on television advertising and micro-targeted polling has given the 1% a structural advantage over the rest of us. When it comes to elections, money gets results, and so those with the most money have been able to get results. -- As a result, the Republican party has become quite aggressive about pursuing an agenda that benefits the wealthy, while the Democratic party has been paralyzed by the need to compete. -- We need unions.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I hate that I can't bring myself to read more than one-third of this book, but frankly the state of US politics makes me too depressed and angry to go any further. This book is ten years old, but still relevant and accurate. Policy and tax code are structured to benefit those at the very, very, very top. I think we all knew this already (or maybe not, given the results of the recent presidential election?), but the authors give loads of proof in an accessible and non-academic way--I appreciate t I hate that I can't bring myself to read more than one-third of this book, but frankly the state of US politics makes me too depressed and angry to go any further. This book is ten years old, but still relevant and accurate. Policy and tax code are structured to benefit those at the very, very, very top. I think we all knew this already (or maybe not, given the results of the recent presidential election?), but the authors give loads of proof in an accessible and non-academic way--I appreciate this as an academic who hates academic writing. This book is important and well written, I just can't read it anymore 😭 I'm hoping someday to pick up where I left off.

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